These were supposed to be the Olympics that time, and the pandemic, were keen to forget.
They were to be the Games to underpin the futility of elite sport in the time of a global crisis. We were prepared to scorn the foolishness of bringing together competitors from all around the world just so they could compete in sports we really didn’t much care for.
So, what happened? How did we get it so spectacularly wrong? How had we forgotten that we care more deeply than it’s possible to imagine at the start of the summer about people rowing boats, or swimming as fast as they can, or nailing what we quickly relearn is a perfect dismount from the uneven bars? Is it because we’ve had a five year wait instead of the usual four? Or perhaps we’ve become so accustomed to bad news over the past 18 months that we’ve dismissed our capacity and need for joy, inspiration, escape?
Tokyo 2020
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Whatever it is, may we all be grateful we were given the chance to be proven wrong and had the opportunity to witness, at last, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Medals won, records broken, legends immortalised - Best of a glorious Tokyo 2020 for Team GB

For me, a lot of what went right at the XXXII Olympiad, were the sports we are told were introduced to attract a younger audience. Skateboarding, surfing and climbing attracted perhaps the most traditional of snootiness when they were announced on the Olympic programme at Rio 2016.
Yet, for all the middle-aged huffiness, it is the newer sports which have provided some of the most very special moments of these Games, whatever the age of the viewer. Sky Brown’s bronze medal in the inaugural Park Skateboarding final and the sideshow of sisterhood amongst all the international rivals would lift even the most Covid-weary of hearts.

13-year-old Brown takes medal, McLaughlin smashes world record on track - Morning Update

Charlotte Worthington’s leap from 40-hour weeks at a Mexican restaurant to becoming the first woman to land a 360 backflip in competition and win gold in BMX freestyle was a moment of ‘wow’ many of us won’t have felt in a long time. The thrill of the spider monkey antics on display at the speed climbing surprised and enticed us all.
Part of the joy of these sports is the fun that has clearly been had on the road to Olympic glory. The work that goes into landing a 540 in skateboarding is surely a more spontaneous, unstructured kind of enjoyment than that which is required to get to the top level of single sculls.

‘The first time in history!’ – Worthington claims gold with history-making backflip in BMX freestyle

We have had plenty of magical moments in the more traditional sports as well, such as Adam Peaty’s celebration in swimming or Laura Kenny’s delight at winning gold at three consecutive Olympics.
But for me, my personal highlights came mostly from the unbridled, unfiltered, unplanned expressions of delight that have come from the more unexpected places. If I ever again see as beautiful celebration of friendship and understanding than Kye Whyte holding new Olympic champion Bethany Shriever aloft, just after he won BMX silver, I’ll be very happy indeed.
In a world where we’ve come to expect the worst, and second-guessing disaster is a prudent rather than pessimistic endeavour, it’s little wonder the last two weeks have taken us all by surprise.
Far from being ill-timed or badly judged, it turns out that the Tokyo Olympic Games were exactly what we needed when we needed it. We just didn’t know it until now.
Tokyo 2020
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Tokyo 2020
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